Illinois basketball fans have a special interest in Team NLP because it has featured future Illini Brandon Paul among its top performers. Paul was working on his skill development with Simpkins, a former three-time National Champion with the Chicago Bulls, when Dickie began his AAU team in 2007.
Simpkins explains the purpose of NLP (Next Level Performance).
"NLP is a basketball skill development program that I started two years ago to help players develop on and off the court. It expanded into AAU because some of the kids that were training wanted to play in a program that could help them with their skills as well as get them great exposure. That is how I formed Team NLP."
Some AAU programs simply throw the basketballs out on the floor and let their players do their own thing. There is little if any coaching or personal development. But Simpkins cares about his players and their long-term welfare.
"We mentor the players as well as the parents. We show them what it takes to be successful at this game and play at the next level. Along with that, we give them sport nutritional information so they can have longevity at this game.
"We have a great staff of coaches. Their experience helps the players develop on and off the court."
Brandon Paul has been a direct beneficiary of Simpkins' effforts.
"Brandon is a humble kid who has improved tremendously in his confidence," Simpkins states. "He now knows he can be an elite player at the next level. He continues to work on his game. We have designed different training sessions for certain facets of his game that we need to continue to improve. One day it is his mid range game and another it will be his ball handling so he can play point guard as well as shooting guard."
One thing is for sure. Paul has been Team NLP's marquee player, leading the 17-under team to 6th in the nation. Simpkins praises his abilities.
"Brandon has an unbelievable talent where he can play above the rim, long wing span to defend, shooting range from beyond the three point line, and athletic ability so he can create his own shot anytime."
What started with one team has now grown to two 17-under teams, two 16-under groups, and one 15-under team. Younger players in the pipeline include Lenzelle Smith, the Zion-Benton star committed to Ohio State; 2010 Oswego East star Jordan Harris; and North Chicago freshman Aaron Simpson, a 5'-11" guard with great skills.
Dickie is a Providence grad who loves basketball and the young people who share his passion. While he favors no schools for his kids, he admits to looking forward to watching Brandon Paul and his fellow commitments D. J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand at Illinois.
"Coach Weber has a great crop of young guys coming in with Brandon's class, and it will be fun to watch."
AAU basketball has become an important part of a young athlete's development, providing top competition to compare talents and create reputations. Some of these programs do more for their players than others, and Dickie Simpkins and his Team NLP group are one of the good ones.